Rochester police chief fired following damning report on death of Daniel Prude

Rochester Police Chief Le’Ron Singletary announces his retirement days before being fired. Credit: Fox2Now

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has fired Chief of Police Le’Ron Singletary in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death.

Daniel Prude. Credit: Prude family photo, via The New York Times

Warren fired Singletary and suspended two top city officials following a damning initial report about Daniel Prude’s death, its investigation and coverup by multiple departments of the Rochester city government.

A press release quoted Mayor Warren:

“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” said Mayor Warren. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout City government at every level.”

“MAYOR WARREN INITIATES REFORM IN WAKE OF DANIEL PRUDE DEATH; RELIEVES CHIEF, SUSPENDS DEPARTMENT LEADERS”
City of Rochester
News Release 
(Monday, Sept. 14, 2020)

I applaud Mayor Warren for firing Chief Singletary.  Let the chips fall where they may.


Extracts from Deputy Mayor Smith’s report to Mayor Warren

The following Observations are extracted directly from Rochester Deputy Mayor James P. Smith’s report to Mayor Warren.

The complete, 10-page report includes evidence, analysis, and a total of seven highly critical observations. It will be published here on The Tumalo Lookout.

Observation 1: “The Lens of the Badge”

The records reveal a culture of insularity, acceptance and, quite frankly, callousness that permeates the Rochester Police Department

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 2

The records reveal a culture of insularity, acceptance and, quite frankly, callousness that permeates the Rochester Police Department: From the cavalier and unsympathetic attitude displayed by the officers present at the MHA; to the investigators in the Major Crimes Unit and the Professional Standards Section who seemingly saw nothing wrong after reviewing the Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage; to the Police Chief and his command staff who continued to describe the death of Mr. Prude as the result of an overdose and “resisting arrest,” even after the Medical Examiner ruled it a homicide and the video showed Mr. Prude did NOT resist his arrest.

Equally disturbing, the “lens of the badge” is not limited to law enforcement.

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 3

Equally disturbing, the “lens of the badge” is not limited to law enforcement. The AMR technician on scene at the arrest displayed the same indifference to Mr. Prude’s welfare, according to the BWC footage; and the municipal attorneys who processed the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests and appeals discuss the BWC footage in terms of data to be redacted or included rather than as a human life lost.

RPD attempted to extend the “lens of the badge” to others.

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 3

Finally, it appears that the RPD attempted to extend the “lens of the badge” to others. A day after Mr. Prude’s death, an RPD lieutenant sent two emails to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office (ME) – subject line “Please Call Me” – offering to provide background he describes as “sensitive” on the arrest prior to the start, much less the completion, of the autopsy.

This certainly could leave one with the appearance of an attempt to influence the outcome of the ME’s ruling on the manner of death and raises the question of whether such strategies to influence other agencies are used in other circumstances and how often they are successful.

In another email discussing the FOIL, the lieutenant discusses strategies to “buy some more time” and “hold back for a little while” before releasing the information in the FOIL.

Observation 2: Questions of Training and Career Guidance

None of the officers offered Mr. Prude a blanket or covering, and there is no evidence that this thought occurred to any of them or anyone at RPD who subsequently reviewed videos of the incident. The simple concepts of human decency and dignity appeared to be woefully lacking or non-existent.

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 3

None of the officers offered Mr. Prude a blanket or covering, and there is no evidence that this thought occurred to any of them or anyone at RPD who subsequently reviewed videos of the incident. The simple concepts of human decency and dignity appeared to be woefully lacking or non-existent. It is reminiscent of the incident involving Christopher Pate, and one can ask the same question now that was asked then: Is this exceptional behavior or “business as usual” in the Police Department? These issues raise serious questions about the initial training and career development that guide the standards of conduct and quality of service provided by Rochester’s police officers.

Law enforcement agencies are especially insular organizations…. the unique stressors of the job and the daily exposure to often violent and disturbing activity has the potential to create an “us-versus-them” mindset and a worldview shared by few others.

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 3-4

Law enforcement agencies are especially insular organizations, with police academy recruits often being trained by former and current officers of the same department, and professional development opportunities fostered by supervisors who spend their entire careers in the same agency. The 24/7 work cycle creates shift schedules that cover nights and weekends, often limiting social interaction outside of work to other police officers. Meanwhile, the unique stressors of the job and the daily exposure to often violent and disturbing activity has the potential to create an “us-versus-them” mindset and a worldview shared by few others.

Social and professional behaviors, customs and habits are bound to become calcified and institutionalized in this environment, leading to both good and bad outcomes.

Memo, Smith to Warren (September 14,2020), “Managerial Review of Daniel Prude Death,” Pg. 4

The Tumalo Lookout

Cop culture is inherently, deeply, flawed. Callous disregard, indifference and complacency are part of the world view that gets learned and shared in the profession. So is the manipulation of institutions to protect cops from investigation, discipline, arrest, and conviction.

Are all cops guilty? No, but we aren’t talking about “a few bad apples.” Perhaps some half to two-thirds or more of all cops are in the middle between being corrupt or being exceptional. They are the ones who are more likely to look the other way and say nothing when the bottom 2 percent engage in misconduct, corruption, racism, or police brutality.

Bell curve of standard deviations: a good starting place to estimate the percentage of cops who fall between the extremes of “bad apples” and “exceptional,” however the terms are defined.

The public never knows which cops fall into the “bad apple” group, and which don’t. So it’s reasonable and past time to hold all cops accountable to the public for the misconduct and corruption, the brutality, the racism, the complacency and the indifference among so many of them.

In the court of public opinion, all cops suffer shame and disrespect when this happens. And they should.

Law enforcement has had 400 years to resolve these problems, and it never has. Collectively, cops simply aren’t willing to make the changes that we need them to make. Cop culture is extremely resistant to change.

So Americans are forcing the issue. With the Black Lives Matter movement. With hundreds of protests in cities across the country. With budgetary and mission reforms. And, with the terminations and forced resignations of some top cops, the Old Guard of the status quo.

It’s damned difficult to keep caring about the careers and lives of cops when so many of them seem to care about nothing else. They serve us. We aren’t paying them for excuses.

And we sure as hell aren’t paying them to kill citizens they’ve sworn to protect and serve.


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